Monday, February 23, 2009

Ten things learning designers forget

I like collaborating with other learning designers on a project, because that way we increase our chances of covering one another's blind spots. I've been thinking lately about the blind spots we may have. Sadly, these are often the result of little, if any contact with the target audience. Most of our interactions tend to be with the subject matter experts, the stakeholders and he-who-signs-the-cheque. As a consequence, we may overlook some factors that could and should impact on our design (note; this is not meant to be a definitive list!):

  1. Users may already know a fair amount about the subject. They might not need the basics. Forcing them into a learning tunnel is not going to serve their best interests. There needs to be a way for them to circumvent the basics.
  2. On the other hand, self-taught people often have gaps at the basic level, even when they have some fairly advanced skills/knowledge. It should be possible for them to cherry pick the bits they've missed out on.
  3. A user might not go through the whole resource in one sitting. This means return visits. So it must be possible for users to return to the materials without being subjected to the prior knowledge assessment, or the 'why we're doing this' section, or the video of the MD's rah-rah speech. No matter how inspiring that speech, it will get old after the third go round.
  4. People may not want to use your resource. Astonishing as it is for us learning geeks, some people don't see why they should have to have any training. "I've been doing this job since you were a twinkle in your Daddy's eye!" Your resource (perish the thought) may just be a hoop they have to jump through or a box they have to tick in order to demonstrate compliance to the satisfaction of some or other regulatory body, or to qualify for a promotion, or to keep the job they have already. For the unwinnable soul, there needs to be a way to get through this as quickly as possible.
  5. If you're putting together a resource which addresses basic skills like hygiene or some such, bear in mind that people who require basic level training are not necessarily stupid. Ignorance and stupidity are not the same thing. It is important that the materials are not pitched as if you're talking to an eejit.
  6. Similarly, if your learners are not native English speakers, be careful of talking down to them. This is similar to the battles experienced by those teaching adult literacy - there is precious little material that tackles topics of interest to adults while using the vocabulary of an early reader.
  7. Learners may disagree with the content of the material, or they may have a better idea. There needs to be a space for them to say so.
  8. A user may return to your resource in search of just one piece of information, "I know It's in there - I just can't remember where." It should be possible for them to be able to zoom in on that one piece of information and then get back to the day job.
  9. People may prefer to talk to people. If possible, there should be a way for them to do so. A list of acknowledged experts in each field. A discussion forum. User profiles. That sort of thing.
  10. Some people may be interested to learn more than your resource contains on a specific point. It's a good idea to include links to additional resources.

No comments: